Teaching: Notes from the Front Line

We are, at the time I write this, in need of a revolution in education. This is a strong statement and I don't use it lightly.

By: Dr. Debra Kidd


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Size: 130 x 198mm

Pages : 138

ISBN : 9781781351314

Format: Paperback

Published: August 2014


Our current education system is overloaded with amendments, additions and adjustments which have been designed to keep an outdated model in the air. But it is crashing. And as it comes down, we see the battle of blame begin. It is time to take our vocation back, to learn to trust ourselves and each other and, crucially, to take control of the direction of education and policy.

We have allowed powerful institutions to manipulate the fear of parents and teachers to the extent that neither can see how to proceed without being told what to think. Covering education policy, PISA testing, Ofsted, exams, pedagogy and much more, this book explores how the so-called accountability and quality systems in our country have been used to straight-jacket teachers into compliance, even when flying in the face of emerging knowledge and understanding about learning.

This is a narrative of hope, of how the system could be different. It offers tales from within the classroom of learning, of hope, of laughter, of gentle subversion. This is a call to arms for a pedagogical revolution. Will you answer it?


Picture for author Dr. Debra Kidd

Dr. Debra Kidd

Debra Kiddtaught for 23 years in primary, secondary and higher education settings. She is the author of three previous books ' Teaching: Notes from the Front Line, Becoming Mobius and Uncharted Territories ' and believes more than anything else that the secret to great teaching is to make it matter'. Debra has a doctorate in education and co-founded and organised Northern Rocks, one of the largest annual teaching and learning conferences in the UK.

View Debra's profile in Schools Week, October 2014.

Click here to listen in on Debra's podcast with Pivotal Education on teaching, learning and politics'.

Click here to watch a video interview with Debra as part of The Education Foundation's series of Education Britain Conversations.


Reviews

  1. Debra Kidd argues that we are in need of a revolution in education and her book has certainly been revolutionary for me. I read it at particularly difficult, discouraging point in my career and it inspired me to keep going, and to fight for what I believe in as a teacher. There are lots of reasons you should read it too, but here are the main ones that inspired me.

    Firstly, this book made me feel understood. Whether it is lesson observations focused on compliance with school policies rather than teacher quality, the unreliability of OFSTED judgements, the utter waste of time that is writing LOs, or the fiasco that is PRP, reading this book felt like chatting with a wise friend who can validate your frustrations, and remind you that you are not crazy after all! The passionate, articulate writing style of this author and teacher proves that she really does appreciate what life is like in the classroom. The things happening to our children, our teachers and our education system really do matter. However, this is no mere emotional rant (such as I might provide for long-suffering family and friends!) The book is well-researched and academically rigorous, interrogating some of the common assertions that accompany current debates around teaching. (See, for example, the discussion of PISA tests and the marketisation of education, pp. 45-49).

    It's is not all doom and gloom though! While the challenges and pressures are real, Kidd also dares to ask some profound questions and presents a compelling alternative for how education could be. She argues that most of the time, we tell children that the point of school is so they can get a good job when they're older; but is this the highest goal of education, or even a possibility for all children in our economy? Kidd asks instead:

    “How might education be received by children if the long term promise was not employment but a fulfilling life? And if that promise was not held as a long term goal but started now - our fulfilling life started in the here and now? What if our society accepted that while not everyone might be able to earn, they still might love to learn? What if the goal was to be wise?” (p.33)

    She goes on to suggest that we can help children

    “build an image of a future in which work may not be the ultimate goal, but merely a means to funding a more fulfilling life. Let them explore that this life might contain sport, art and cultural visits, charity work, community projects and family time. Let them see that happy and fulfilling futures are possible separate from work, so that we remove the stigma from certain jobs and roles. You are not a loser if you end up working in Morrisions. Is that anti-aspirational or hopeful?” (p38-39).

    For me, it is hugely hopeful. It offers the possibility that we could shape our society so our children are offered wide horizons, and are valued intrinsically, rather than for their ability to become consumers and tax-payers. We can seek the very best education for them because they are worth it, not because they will eventually pay us back for it. Then perhaps we can start to offer some powerful counter-narratives, not just to those people who work in Tesco, or empty bins for a living, (both of whom we really need to make our society work, by the way) but also to the disaffected and disillusioned people who decide to participate in terrorism, or rioting, for whom capitalism no longer cuts it.

    The thought that we could change our society is heady stuff; a beautiful dream of a world that might actually be different. But is it realistic? Kidd seems to think so and what is more, she believes that it is ordinary teachers, like you and me, who can begin to make it happen.

    The best part about this book is that Kidd does not just identify problems, or outline a new vision for education, she gives practical suggestions on how to get there. Each chapter ends with some penetrating one-liners or questions to provoke thinking about how teachers can make a difference in the classroom right now. Phrases such as make it matter; offer narratives of hope for the future; be your authentic teacher self; “I own my own classroom and will teach as I see fit” rang in my head and gave me the resilience and courage I needed to see out my last few weeks in a difficult situation. They have also given me a renewed sense of purpose and hope to take into my new school. I can, and will, make a difference to children's lives, in spite of the system.

    In all honesty, it is probably easier to act in the ways Kidd suggests are necessary if you know your senior management will support you, but it is possible even if they don't. How classroom teachers work with less than supportive SMTs is a whole different issue, but the quote that stuck with me was this:

    “Never do anything that is not in the best interests of the children. Others may disagree but if you argue from positions of integrity, rather than self-interest, you have a chance of making a difference” (p.75).

    It is a lot easier to disagree (professionally), if you know you are doing it for the right reasons and you know what you are doing is right for your children.

    Reading this book was a powerful experience for me. I could have quoted the whole thing to you, but instead I will highly recommend it to every teacher, particularly, those in need of some fresh inspiration and encouragement. We don't have to stay disillusioned and dismayed:

    “We can hope and share hopefulness. We are kings of our own classrooms and, most of the time, no one else is watching. Be yourself and do what you know is right” (p.119).



    See the original blog post here: https://primarymusings.wordpress.com/2015/04/07/injecting-hope-teaching-notes-from-the-front-line-by-dr-debra-kidd/
  2. I first held Debra Kidd's book several months ago and have only just found the time to blog about it. I've written my highlights based on the chapters in this book and you can read my thoughts below, chapter by chapter. Kidds book has inspired me. It is one of the most thoughtful books on education that I have read over the past 20 years, and it should be on all teacher-training reading lists for those entering the profession; particularly BEd undergraduates who study more than just -˜how to teach.'

    I am going to start my review with one of Kidd's final thoughts in her book;

    “Our revolution as teachers requires that we start our journey towards a new education by changing ourselves first -¦ We can reject market forces - we don't have to buy their stuff -¦ We can reject failure narratives -¦ We are Kings of our own classrooms and, most of the time, no one else is looking. Be yourself and do what you know is right -¦ free from fear.”

    Introduction:
    The introduction in Kidd's book strikes various chords with me. I too agree, that my own education was far removed from what state school students receive today. I left school with just 3 GCSE pass grades (C plus) the year after O Levels ceased to exist. And as with many teachers who become teachers, once upon a time, there was a teacher who inspired us too to become a teacher. Kidd goes on to first introduce politics in her book - a re-occurring theme throughout - and how the rise of political interference in education in order to win votes steadily rises throughout the late 80s and 90s.

    “We have been told so many times that we are not worthy of trust that we have begun to turn on each other -¦ As teachers, we take this relentless, critical interference from people who really understand the complexities of classroom interactions -¦ We have begun to believe that we are not good enough, when, in fact, even OfSTED concedes that the teaching profession is the best it has ever been. We are, at the time I write this, in need of a revolution in education.”

    However, although I agree that teaching practice may have had a haphazard approach in the 1980s. in the early 1990s, my own teaching practice was far from patchy. It was carefully considered, strategic aligned to our own CPD needs. After all, a 4-year bachelor of education degree prepares trainee teachers with subject knowledge, pedagogy, psychology, child development (from chapter 5) for the real world of teaching.

    Our current education system is;

    “presented to us as a battle between traditional and progressive methods when, in fact, the vast majority of teachers - including myself - steer a pathway through the middle.”

    Any sensible and well-rounded teacher will know this is the most common approach in their own classroom and that both - despite maybe having a particular teaching style and preference - cannot exist without the other. Kidd says (and I support); “this is a moral no-man's-land were immediate changes to education are announced on television and in newspapers rather than through examination regulators and boards.”

    “How many of us have change our teaching to see what we imagine and expect was looking for -¦ narratives of failure are damaging children in order to protect the interests of a few individuals.”

    Scribbled in my own copy of the book, on page 7 I have left the following note; “this book resonates with me, because it is written by hard-nosed, front-line practitioner, a teacher who has seen more changes in education than any politician.” In many chapters throughout, Kidd has inspired me to write my own education manifesto in time for the general election of 2015.

    Chapter 1 - Dead Man's Clothing.
    The first chapter in this book discussed what education appears to have become. Data and progress. Kidd writes; “this is most obviously evident in the assumption that children perform in meat, straight lines of progress, roughly in-line with their chronological age -¦ It [exam system] has always been a blunt and unforgiving tool.” There are a mixture of questions for the reader to consider but one that is pertinent and sticks out for me; “have you ever said to an enthusiastic child, -˜You don't need that for the exam?'”

    Kidd goes on to share views on Ofsted, educational research and views from Pasi Sahlberg and Daniel Willingham. This is a well-researched and referenced book that challenged the notion that “the reliability of exams, suggest that essay-based examinations are more at risk of unreliable marking short responses or multiple choice, the latter are seen as soft options.”

    “Until assessment is uncoupled from accountability, and the grades of a child are disconnected from the pay and conditions of their teachers, such trust will be undermined by what some have termed as -˜game play.'”

    “Already in the UK, the coalition government's decision to take only the first grade as the one that counts for school league tables is leading to some highly unethical practices in schools.”

    Why do we do it? As Kidd says, -˜because that is how we used to do it!' Sadly, this is all that most of us are used to; yet Kidd states that she is not saying that all tests are bad, instead, she asks that “if we on children to leave school with information that stays with them for life, we should be scrutinising this more carefully.”

    A fitting quote to end this chapter on accountability, Ofsted, political interference, assessment and a damming review of Pearsons Education Group is this; “people tend to choose the research that best fits their world view.”

    Chapter 2 - The Future: Run or Ride?
    Any teacher will know, that you cannot predict student outcomes; “as any teacher who has ever had a wasp enter the classroom can tell you!” In this chapter, Kidd makes references to cognitive scientist, George Lakoff, Al Gore and many other sources. The future of education appears to -˜offer a more egalitarian promise of hard work = good job. We dangle this carrot in front of children's noses, and for those who are raised in areas where employment is a given it may work.'

    In Kidd's ever-hard-hitting style, she writes with truth that no politician could speak. This is a book on teaching and education, that truly is Notes From the Front Line. She poses a philosophical question for us all;

    “How may education be received by children if the long-term promise was not employment but a fulfilling life”

    What might education look like then? Currently, children see celebrity culture and quick wins as net worth more than saving a life. Children see politicians entitled to pay rises of 11%, compared to public services less than inflation (circa. 2015), while their own parents are laid off. No wonder our kids retreat to television, computer games and quick gratification on the internet!

    “We can combine the needs of the future and present by very simply giving children an education that they love now, in which they thrive now, in which they learn to love knowledge and learning because it's just really interesting and in which they become happy, articulate, resilient, agentive people with the capacity to embrace whatever future they eventually inhabit -¦ Deleuze called this -˜nomadic teaching.'”

    Chapter 3 - Neo-Narcissism: The Problem with Comparisons.
    In this chapter, Kidd refers to OECD statistics and founded, one-sided bias, as well as the Education Select Committee in Gove is exposed for his lack of understanding whilst being interviewed by the committee in January 2012. The reader is reminded that teachers are often told, that standards of literacy and numerical understanding in this country are too low by people who themselves don't understand the information they are using to make their claims. I recall the words of Liz Truss when I heard her speak at EdReform14, regarding the latest fash-on; text books and Shanghai Maths!

    “-¦ a justification for a type of education system that focuses relentlessly on the acquisition of knowledge alone.”

    -¦ with references to -˜skills' largely removed from the Department for Education reforms. Thankfully, most of us within the profession are savvy enough to see through the rhetoric; only to become frustrated with the headlines and the damming messages parents and the public read and hear. Kidd is correct. There is a -˜bad smell' and we must challenge the status quo.

    We vilify unions so that even teachers don't trust them!
    We fight parents into believing that there's no hope for children unless they support the measures the government is taking to -˜save' the system.
    We use international data to convince parents and business leaders that the education system is in crisis.
    We use -˜astro-turfing' - the manipulation of social media through the use of multiple accounts - to create the impression of a dominant viewpoint.
    Finnish teachers are all educated tomatoes level but also drawn from the top 10% of educational achievement across the country.
    Finnish teachers teach on average 15.2 hours per week leaving them on for support, intervention, effective marking and CPD.

    Kidd says it and I will repeat and echo her words; “if we want to improve education, we need to eradicate poverty. It is that simple.” We need to build more positive narratives for children and this kind of writing is a call to arms for all of us. It's blinding!
    Chapter 4 - The Game of Clones: Oftsed and Accountability.

    I will open this chapter was probably the most re-tweeted message from my Twitter account. Here is the photograph;

    What is the Point of Copying Lesson Objectives?

    This is an excellent chapter and challenges many myths that we sadly, have all been susceptible in the classroom. This is the chapter where Kidd really challenges the notion of OfSTED.

    “Too few people understand the cost is not coherent organisation or that it is largely run by private operators is key priority is to maintain contracts and market presence.”

    This reminds me of a photograph that I have tweeted several times; and reminds me that I have yet to blog another OfSTED news update to my readers. Ofsted Book Quote by @TeacherToolkit“One day, Ofsted will cease to exist.”

    Kidd does not argue for the demise of Ofsted. Neither did I until our recent school inspection, Observing the Observers. I only have myself to blame for using The 5 Minute Lesson Plan to promote one-off outstanding lessons. “As teachers, we have exacerbated Ofsted, every single time we have tweeted or Facebooked a gleeful, -˜I got an outstanding!' message.” The social epoch is among us and we have already seen that bloggers and tweeters can move ivory towers.

    “Before we celebrate the potential demise of the classroom observation, or of OfSTED, we should consider the implications of the alternative. Data -¦”

    Freedom solves the problem; and we can ask, as well as Kidd in her book, what a good Inspectorate might look at in Outstanding schools. Kidd offers a very sensible checklist. Here are the highlights:

    Outstanding schools are committed to offering teaching placements to students.
    Wide reaching commitment to extracurricular activity.
    A thriving culture of cultural/educational trips for students.
    That progress over time, takes into account the child development in confidence, speech and managing their physical and emotional needs, as well as the academic performance.
    Every child has full access to a broad imbalance curriculum.

    Kidd then quotes E.D. Hirsch and Sir Tim Brighouse and the vital importance of cultural literacy to develop the learner, as well as non-negotiable entitlements for all children. Workload also features as well as our new bandwagon, progress over time. In my opinion, it's Kidd's best chapter -¦

    She finishes the chapter with a (r)evolutionary practice proposal.

    Chapter 5 - Teaching: Not for Lily Pad Hoppers.
    This chapter is all about initial teacher training. One of Kidd's specialisms, where she shares her own experiences of her PGCE at a Russell Group university. In this chapter she argues that the PGCE is inadequate preparation for teaching and many of the alternatives, but I am pleased to see that she recognises that the comprehensive four-year-long BEd degree programme is the best preparation for teaching! One that I wholeheartedly agree with. (No bias there.) And Kidd is right, this course covers all aspects of subject knowledge and prepared me as a teacher, in child psychology, child development, research and pedagogy of education. As well as teacher placements in a variety of schools each academic year, we had degree shows to exhibit our work, as well as lectures in education acts of a bygone era, studying the history of education dating back over a century.

    I have watched the coalition government destroy this pathway and have seen the number of undergraduates slowly ebb away. My position at school no longer allows me to support BAEd undergraduates directly in my departments, but over the past 15 years, I have happily supported over 100 student teachers. I would do so all over again -¦ and I ensure that in my leadership position, we secure as many student placements as possibly when line-managing initial teacher training. These trainee teachers are put through their paces, long before being left alone in the classroom.

    Fraction by fear features some controversy. Kidd references the Marxist blob and says -˜the problem with education is, well -¦ the educated.' Civitas, Gove, Hirsch, upcoming Robert Peal (aka blogger Matthew Hunter) and Daisy Chirstodoulou all feature. This is an enlightening chapter and is probably the most essential reading of the entire book.

    Kidd expresses her feelings about ITT provision, phonics and APP. Teach First also features, and Kidd asks, -˜how effective is their strategy for the profession in the long term?' This is an extremely valid question. But Kidd's argument is not without balance.

    “Even the most hard-pressed cynic would find it difficult to argue, that Teach First has not brought some significant and positive change to some of our most challenging schools.”

    The chapter goes into full details about ITT funding, for example, that Teach First recruits cost '£7,000 per year more than a PGCE student. Kidd writes, -˜that 67% of [Teach First] trainees are still -˜involved in education' five years later, but this does not mean that they are still teachers.

    She quotes from Hattie and Yates, who are clear, that expert teaching take time to form - between five and 10 years - of constant reflective practice and improvement (Visible Learning). Kidd also offers her views on the new Schools Direct initiative which has forced the hands of schools to take the structure of teacher-training away from universities. This is undermining the professional integrity of teaching pathways and has led to an unexpected shortfall in the number of applications. Kidd shares two things that can raise the level of quality in teacher training:

    Governments need to show teachers are respected, and to raise the status of the profession is much easier, if you don't constantly criticise it.
    That the profession needs to work towards building relationships with the media so that a range of opinions is expressed.

    All in all, it's a no-holds-barred chapter from Kidd here who finishes with a teaching revolution and an outline of how a two-year teacher programme could be perceived.

    Chapter 6 - Moo Cows in Showers: Celebrating Complexity.
    There are no easy answers. The reality is that classroom life is complex. -˜Learning is not a linear process that can be tracked neatly on a graph.' In this chapter, Kidd writes in some detail about the child and their complex emotional elements. There are some details on physical process of relationships and cognition. Kidd uses again, a range of supporting references from Claxton and Piaget.

    “Progress is not about putting numbers into spreadsheets.”

    Kidd writes about the implications for your classroom and provides a brief list of strategies for dealing with data. The most pertinent being, -˜never fake your data.'

    Chapter 7 - (R)evolution: Pedagogical Activism.
    In this final chapter Kidd says that “it is not so simple as to point to work load in understanding the phenomena of GERM (Global Education Reform Movement).” She goes on to express her views on teacher burn out and how the recent reforms by Gove has not yielded the kind of improvements we would all have craved.

    Kidd writes;

    “While writing this book, I have hoped. I have hoped that you, my reader will have considered your own part to be played in solving the problems we have an education -¦ I have hope that we might, regardless of our differences in philosophy or approach, agreed that it is important for children to find joy knowledge and learning and to want that they retain that learning throughout their adult lives -¦ That every child has the right to learn in the safe, trusting and supportive environment.

    Pedagogical Activism:
    I refuse to compete with my colleagues.
    I refuse to see exam results the sole point of my role.
    I own my classroom and will teach as I see fit.
    I recognise the trust is built by sharing.
    I know that no matter how tired I am, I need to read, to keep up-to-date with new developments in education.

    Rather than becoming despondent at our own smallness, we should use our size to our advantage. We're on the ground interacting with children every single day. We matter.”

    I've circled and underlined the following words for several reasons. We need a teachers' manifesto. We need a coordinated approach to move ivory towers, and to take the profession back into our own hands. Kidd shares here views on how we might achieve our own manifesto, including the idea of running CPD for parents, which I love. “If parents could see you know what it's like to teach a class, how would that impact on the failure narratives in the media?”

    Last words:
    This is an astonishing book, containing a detailed bibliography with many references to classrooms, blogs and academic institutions. This read is truly for -˜front line' teachers who stand in classrooms, in front of children every single day. Those who do, will know how important this book is.

    It's a book I wish I had written -¦ Get your hands on a copy now!



    See the full review here http://teachertoolkit.me/2015/02/15/notes-from-the-front-line-by-debrakidd/?utm_content=buffer03e08&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
  3. This bold and impassioned book critically examines the effects of inspections, exams and politics on the profession and draws on tales from the classroom to explore how the education system in the UK could be different.
  4. This is a thought provoking work by Debra Kidd, which challenges the reader to reflect upon current practice in order to re-kindle personal and professional trust to regain control of the direction of education and policy. The author directs her range of arguments against the current structure of education, with the emphasis by politicians on results and international comparisons of performance . In particular she highlights the use of education as a vehicle to capture the hearts and minds of the electorate as a vehicle to promote political agendas This book will enlighten all teachers at the “coal face” with regard to the current problems facing education. The author refers to the current period as “a dark time in education” and the need for a revolution in pedagogy.
  5. Within many nations, there is a crises in what education should mean -” each one looking over their shoulder at other neighbours, wondering how they can all improve their systems and gain better and better results. Results, data, accountability, progress, targets! These battles to the top of the international league tables woefully forget those at the heart of the education system -” teachers and pupils. Teachers pandering to management whims, who -” in turn -” are pandering to inspectors whims, who -” in turn -” are pandering to the whims of politicians, who -” in turn -” are pandering to the whims of international comparisons and the promises made by market forces, who do very nicely out of the exam factory system, thank you very much. As a result, all this is leading to a -˜devastating waste of human potential' so claims Dr Debra Kidd, in her new book Teaching: notes from the front line.

    It is the teaching profession that has taken the greatest hit in this race to the top, with many stuck in the classroom being over-burdened with paperwork and bureaucratic activities leaving very little time to have much of a life away from school work. Politicians and journalists are guilty of undermining the profession, who in turn become too tired or too scared to argue back, with Dr Kidd highlighting times when they fall into the trap of blaming each other for the failings of very questionable assessment systems, citing the number of teachers who receive a new set of pupils being perplexed by the gradings of their previous teachers, throwing “their hands up in despair as they consider the implications of those levels on their own progress data.”

    Dr Kidd also gives due attention to the behaviours of countries who look at each other in trying to improve their standing in international tables, as Singapore move to a Teach Less, Learn More policy for their teachers; the England government looking at US initiatives, even though their table rankings fall lower; plus how governments actually ignore the much admired Finland model of respect towards their teachers and the systems they -˜successfully' have in place. The system of bringing Maths graduates over to England is examined, but with differing number systems and cultures, this is just another whimsical political idea which is doomed for failure -” transplanting teachers into one system WILL NOT work unless you transplant the culture too.

    The discursive nature of this book provokes many questions whilst reading, but pointing the errors of the way within the education system (mainly in England) -” explored by Dr Kidd -” is well argued, backed-up with research and analysis making the reader to stop and think about what actually is going on in the modern day education system. In fact, a ten point pedagogical revolution is advocated to teachers, helping all remember the -˜why' they went into teaching in the first place -” many of which would concern politicians, school inspectors, journalists and market forces if they were to be implemented by the majority within the profession. Seek out this book -” beg, borrow, steal (not really), or buy. Try to find time to read it by yourself. Try to find time to read it as a staff. But most importantly, think beyond your classroom walls and question the system you are working in. Is it really the best education system for modern day pupils?
  6. Anyone who has ever heard Debra Kidd speak or read her blog will expect this book to be provocative yet empowering, and it doesn't disappoint. It is laced with her sharp-witted political insights, deep pedagogical understanding and fierce passion to fight for the best possible education we can offer children: one where they thrive and love knowledge and learning.

    At a time of divide and conquer, when teachers are beginning to turn on each other and “have become complicit in the act of dream slaying”, you would expect this to be a morbid reflection. Yes, at times, it is not an easy read because we are all challenged to take a long hard look at our practice: there are some difficult home truths, “we are architects of our own oppression”. However hope runs all the way through. Debra helps us imagine a different system: “reconceptualising” the future, present and past for our pupils; encouraging us to take a long view of learning: to “make it matter”. She challenges us as readers, as well as the politicians, to create change together. Debra is not dictating to us to rise up without instruction; she continually urges us, “Let's-¦” and offers endless suggestions on where to start.

    Throughout she acts as an informed signpost: pointing us to likeminded thinkers to strengthen her argument, inform us and sharpen our resolve. Her incredible depth of knowledge is evident in the relatively huge bibliography.

    Revolution is a hot topic at present: many are donning the symbolic beret and offering alternatives, without actually doing anything concrete. This book further proves what a true teaching revolutionary Debra Kidd is and the proactive bright light to lead us out of these dark times-¦even if she is a bit “argumentative and nowty”.

    So here, when she calls for us to rise up as “pedagogical activists”, take the oath, find our “authentic teacher self” and reclaim our vocation, we should listen and act-¦let's!
  7. If you only read one book about teaching this year, then there's a compelling case to be made for ensuring it's this one, especially if you are feeling frustrated, trapped and undervalued. Debra Kidd's thinking is crystalline, her prose flawless and her honesty, inspiring. Sweeping aside the piles of false dichotomies that so often stifle genuine debate about education, she exposes what's at the heart of the system and Invites teachers everywhere to reclaim their profession- their vocation -in the name of the young people it serves. She describes our current system In terms of an outmoded model that has been endlessly tweaked, adjusted and overloaded with additions in order to keep it going, when what is actually needed is the courage and determination to call a halt and rebuild it in a way that will work for children now, and into the future. It's a call to arms; a cry for revolution- but with hope and optimism, not anger and resentment. Beautiful.
  8. Within many nations, there is a crises in what education should mean -” each one looking over their shoulder at other neighbours, wondering how they can all improve their systems and gain better and better results. Results, data, accountability, progress, targets! These battles to the top of the international league tables woefully forget those at the heart of the education system -” teachers and pupils. Teachers pandering to management whims, who -” in turn -” are pandering to inspectors whims, who -” in turn -” are pandering to the whims of politicians, who -” in turn -” are pandering to the whims of international comparisons and the promises made by market forces, who do very nicely out of the exam factory system, thank you very much. As a result, all this is leading to a -˜devastating waste of human potential' so claims Dr Debra Kidd, in her new book “Teaching: notes from the front line”.

    It is the teaching profession that has taken the greatest hit in this race to the top, with many stuck in the classroom being over-burdened with paperwork and bureaucratic activities leaving very little time to have much of a life away from school work. Politicians and journalists are guilty of undermining the profession, who in turn become too tired or too scared to argue back, with Dr Kidd highlighting times when they fall into the trap of blaming each other for the failings of very questionable assessment systems, citing the number of teachers who receive a new set of pupils being perplexed by the gradings of their previous teachers, throwing “their hands up in despair as they consider the implications of those levels on their own progress data.”

    Dr Kidd also gives due attention to the behaviours of countries who look at each other in trying to improve their standing in international tables, as Singapore move to a Teach Less, Learn More policy for their teachers; the England government looking at US initiatives, even though their table rankings fall lower; plus how governments actually ignore the much admired Finland model of respect towards their teachers and the systems they -˜successfully' have in place. The system of bringing Maths graduates over to England is examined, but with differing number systems and cultures, this is just another whimsical political idea which is doomed for failure -” transplanting teachers into one system WILL NOT work unless you transplant the culture too.

    The discursive nature of this book provokes many questions whilst reading, but pointing the errors of the way within the education system (mainly in England) -” explored by Dr Kidd -” is well argued, backed-up with research and analysis making the reader to stop and think about what actually is going on in the modern day education system. In fact, a ten point pedagogical revolution is advocated to teachers, helping all remember the -˜why' they went into teaching in the first place -” many of which would concern politicians, school inspectors, journalists and market forces if they were to be implemented by the majority within the profession. Seek out this book -” beg, borrow, steal (not really), or buy. Try to find time to read it by yourself. Try to find time to read it as a staff. But most importantly, think beyond your classroom walls and question the system you are working in. Is it really the best education system for modern day pupils?

    See the full review http://ukedchat.com/2014/10/06/book-review-teaching-notes-from-the-front-line-by-debrakidd/
  9. Over the past few years there has been a renewed debate concerning the evolving nature and trajectory of the education system in England. Several publications have offered deconstructions and critiques of the current system, but have been less specific in sketching out clear, coherent system-level alternatives. This book offers a clear and critical overview of issues central to the future of education in England, exemplifying them through both personal reflection and publically available publications. In a relatively short book this would be extremely useful in its own right, but an alternative, coherent and radical vision of education is also offered which should give anyone interested in the future of education in England pause for thought as well as a potential blueprint for changing the nature of teacher work.

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